This time it was a tweet, not an email.
A deal is reached to #savesweetbriar
— Susan Svrluga (@SusanSvrluga) June 20, 2015
I was a good citizen of the internet. I waited–I needed two other independent sources to confirm the information. Amazingly, they did.
— Hawes Spencer (@HawesSpencer) June 20, 2015
BREAKING: Virginia attorney general announces rescue plan: Sweet Briar College will remain open http://t.co/QEvJnvEWAm
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 20, 2015
I can’t really begin to catalog how I felt on Saturday. Disbelief. Joy. Anxiety–what if something happened before Monday? (It didn’t. The judge approved the agreement this morning. I cried.)
To say I am relieved is a massive understatement. The weight of this has been pressing down on us since March and what moments of hope and happiness we’ve had were always tempered by that uncertainty. What if we failed?
I have never been prouder to call myself a Sweet Briar alumna and community member than I am today (and I was plenty proud before). Not only because we prevented the school’s closure. But because of how we’ve conducted ourselves for the past 3+ months. Because, even while we celebrate this week, we’re already asking the questions that need to be asked. We’re thinking about next steps. Recruitment. Fundraising. Curriculum. Sustainability. By all indications, we won’t forget the hard lessons from this experience. (Friends, neither should you. Complacency is the enemy. If there are places and organizations you love, assume nothing about their wellbeing. Ask.)
Already on social media, the naysayers have resumed their quibbling: “You have no students. The school won’t make it past 2016. What student would want to attend an institution that can’t guarantee its continued existence?”
I’ve been consistently amused by the number of higher ed experts who’ve emerged to comment on this issue since March. But in this regard, they have correctly identified our next obstacle. We need students. It’s fair to say that the college’s population will likely be significantly smaller next year. Will we be able to fill our classrooms? Our doors open in just 2 months. Already, many our rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors are making plans to return (Some will continue to their transfer institutions, which we understand. They will always be part of our community.) Perhaps the most heartening tweet I’ve seen so far is from an accepted student, excited to say she will be able to attend Sweet Briar after all.
Will it be difficult? Yes. But I believe we have a compelling argument to make to the young women of the world. After all, we’ve spent 110 or so days outlining exactly what the benefits of a Sweet Briar education are in our efforts to explain why the college matters. But more than that, we’ve demonstrated exactly what you can do that with that education. You can run an effective PR campaign. You can advocate for the people and places about which you care the most. You can galvanize people on social media. You can write op eds and articles and, yes, even blog posts, to rally people around your cause. Why should anyone go to Sweet Briar?
Because you will learn to never give up. You will learn to believe in yourself and the amazing women around you. You will learn to fight.
The reality is, of course, that we didn’t save Sweet Briar. Not entirely. Not yet. Rather, we are saving Sweet Briar. It’s a progressive state of being, a process. Saving Sweet Briar will entail staying engaged. Staying attentive. Continuing our support of the school and her mission and her community. There will be difficult decisions and moments in the months and years to come. It won’t be easy. But I firmly believe if we continue with the passion and determination we brought to the first part of this ordeal, we will continue save to Sweet Briar.
And the students who join us will, too.